Archive for May, 2009

  1. You’ve had at least one bike rack fall on you while you were sleeping.
  2. You spend more money on peanut butter each year than the GNP of most small countries.
  3. Just about every surface in your house is covered in black, greasy fingerprints.
  4. You’ve taken a shower with a set of wheels.
  5. There are little piles of safety pins all over your living room.
  6. Every time you open a kitchen cabinet at least one water bottle falls on you.
  7. You’ve heard your cycling husband on the phone at 5am on a Saturday responding to a teammate “I don’t know what color kit I’m going to wear. What color kit do you think we should wear?”
  8. You went out to YOUR car one day and noticed a bike rack on the roof and four camping chairs in the trunk.
  9. At least three boxes from NashBar show up at your house each week.
  10. You find sweaty heart rate monitor straps in your laundry basket.

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Ah, the “feed zone.” How much time have I spent in feed zones across this country, I really don’t know. This is the place where you will sit and wait (and wait) in some open field for your cyclist (or his entire team) to pedal through screaming for water! Or cyto! Or coke! You’ve got to be on your toes, for approximately 2 minutes, and then you will wait for an hour, or more, until you get to do it again.

There are a few rules to being a “feeder” during a road race; I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned over the years:

Number one, if this is your first time you’ve been asked to do a feed, or offered (new girlfriends always offer – I’ve seen relationships end in the feed zone), ASK someone how to give a proper feed. If you are handing out bottles, hold them from the top, loosely, the cyclist will grab them and be off quicker than you can blink so have them ready. If you are handing out musette bags, same thing, hold from the top of the handle & wait for your cyclist to whiz by & snag it from your hands. Note: watch out for Rogue bottle thieves. I actually pulled a bottle away from someone, not my cyclist, who was trying to snag a bottle from me. Don’t feel bad about this, if it’s a hot race there is usually a neutral feed where they can get water. Honestly though, poor planning on their part, if they know they don’t have someone in the FZ they should have carried enough with them to get them through the race!

Two, depending on where the feed zone is located in a race, get there early so you can stake out a good spot. My personal preference, if there is a bit of a climb in the FZ, is to aim for near the top. Depending on how many riders you are feeding you are likely to have a lot of stuff, coolers, bottles, etc. (will go over your personal, “what you should bring” shortly). If someone on the team is willing to part w/a team jersey or vest, take it and wear it –it will make you much easier to spot wherever you are set-up. Don’t get frustrated when other people start setting up around you, stick to your spot & make them work around you.

Third, this one is EXTREMELY important: There is never, ever a good reason to run in the feed zone. Ever. Don’t do it. I have seen some seriously bad accidents of feeders taking themselves out, other feeders, and a cyclist or two. It is just a bad idea all around. When the cyclists come through, try to spot your guys, yell their name, their team, whatever so that they see you – if they want a feed, they will get to you. Be prepared though, if you are handing out bottles for more than one cyclist have your bottles ready; if you can manage to hold multiple bottles in your arm all the better. I once had this brilliant, “miracle feed.” Think I handed out more than 8 bottles in less than a minute… the good ole days.

Four, do not feel bad if you miss a feed. Sometimes it does not come together, someone gets in the way, you don’t see your guy coming through soon enough, whatever. Don’t beat yourself up about it, get over it and be ready the next time they come through. I actually witnessed a cyclist stop during the race, get off his bike and start yelling at his girlfriend for missing his feed. I am guessing their relationship didn’t last the weekend.

Okay, those are just a few pointers, but what do YOU need in the feed zone? You’re going to be out there for 4 to 7 hours likely, you have needs too, and so, here is a short list of my essentials: Chair – they are cheap, invest in one. It is much better than sitting in the dirt. Water & snacks, you’re there to feed the cyclists but don’t forget about yourself! Also, cell phone, Sunblock, book or magazines, watch – you’ll need to pay attention to how often the guys roll through; dress in layers, you never know what kind of weather you will encounter. Lastly, don’t forget tissues & anti bacterial gel. You will need to go to the bathroom during those 6 hours and there is not always a port-o-let available. Be ready to go in the great outdoors. I have more stories about cyclists & bathrooms but will save that for next time.

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